New SAT Reading Practice Test 87: The American Forests

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This excerpt from "The American Forests," was part of John Muir's 1897 campaign to save the American wilderness. He would later be called the godfather of the American environmental movement.

The forests of America, however slighted
by man, must have been a great delight to
God; for they were the best he ever planted.
The whole continent was a garden, and from
05the beginning it seemed to be favored above
all the other wild parks and gardens of the
globe. […]
So they appeared a few centuries ago
when they were rejoicing in wildness. The
10Indians with stone axes could do them no
more harm than could gnawing beavers and
browsing moose. Even the fires of the Indians
and the fierce shattering lightning seemed to
work together only for good in clearing spots
15here and there for smooth garden prairies,
and openings for sunflowers seeking the
light. But when the steel axe of the white man
rang out in the startled air their doom was
sealed. Every tree heard the bodeful sound,
20and pillars of smoke gave the sign in the sky.
I suppose we need not go mourning the
buffaloes. In the nature of things they had to
give place to better cattle, though the change
might have been made without barbarous
25wickedness. Likewise many of nature's five
hundred kinds of wild trees had to make way
for orchards and cornfields. In the settlement
and civilization of the country, bread more
than timber or beauty was wanted; and in
30the blindness of hunger, the early settlers,
claiming Heaven as their guide, regarded
God's trees as only a larger kind of pernicious
weeds, extremely hard to get rid of.
Accordingly, with no eye to the future, these
35pious destroyers waged interminable forest
wars; chips flew thick and fast; trees in their
beauty fell crashing by millions, smashed
to confusion, and the smoke of their burning
has been rising to heaven more than two
40hundred years. After the Atlantic coast from
Maine to Georgia had been mostly cleared
and scorched into melancholy ruins, the
overflowing multitude of bread and money
seekers poured over the Alleghenies into
45the fertile middle West, spreading ruthless
devastation ever wider and farther over the
rich valley of the Mississippi and the vast
shadowy pine region about the Great Lakes.
Thence still westward the invading horde of
50destroyers called settlers made its fiery way
over the broad Rocky Mountains, felling and
burning more fiercely than ever, until at last
it has reached the wild side of the continent,
and entered the last of the great aboriginal
55forests on the shores of the Pacific.
Surely, then, it should not be wondered
at that lovers of their country, bewailing its
baldness, are now crying aloud, "Save what
is left of the forests!" Clearing has surely now
60gone far enough; soon timber will be scarce,
and not a grove will be left to rest in or pray
in. The remnant protected will yield plenty
of timber, a perennial harvest for every right
use, without further diminution of its area,
65and will continue to cover the springs of the
rivers that rise in the mountains and give
irrigating waters to the dry valleys at their
feet, prevent wasting floods and be a blessing
to everybody forever.
70Every other civilized nation in the world
has been compelled to care for its forests,
and so must we if waste and destruction
are not to go on to the bitter end, leaving
America as barren as Palestine or Spain. In its
75calmer moments in the midst of bewildering
hunger and war and restless over-industry,
Prussia has learned that the forest plays an
important part in human progress, and that
the advance in civilization only makes it
80more indispensable. […]
So far our government has done nothing
effective with its forests, though the best
in the world, but is like a rich and foolish
spendthrift who has inherited a magnificent
85estate in perfect order, and then has left his
rich fields and meadows, forests and parks,
to be sold and plundered and wasted at will,
depending on their inexhaustible abundance.
Now it is plain that the forests are not
90inexhaustible, and that quick measures must
be taken if ruin is to be avoided.

1. The overall point of the passage is to

  • A. tell a story.
  • B. survey current knowledge.
  • C. make an argument.
  • D. describe an environment.

2. Muir's tone in the passage is best described as

  • A. urgent and earnest.
  • B. arrogant and condescending.
  • C. optimistic and cheerful.
  • D. hopeless and depressed.

3. As used in line 19, the word "sealed" most closely means

  • A. fastened.
  • B. settled.
  • C. authenticated.
  • D. killed.

4. Based on the information in the passage, it is reasonable to infer that in the year 1897, which region of the United States had the greatest abundance of unharvested forests?

  • A. The Atlantic Coast
  • B. The Middle West
  • C. The Mississippi Valley
  • D. The Pacific Region

5. Which option gives the best evidence for the answer to the previous question?

  • A. Lines 34-42 ("Accordingly . . . ruins")
  • B. Lines 43-45 ("Multitude . . .West")
  • C. Lines 47-48 ("rich . . . Lakes")
  • D. Lines 49-55 ("Thence . . . Pacific")

6. Muir uses lines 59-62 ("Clearing . . . pray in") to make appeals that focus on the themes of

  • A. nationalism, militarism, and expansionism.
  • B. environmentalism, scholarship, and piety.
  • C. economics, leisure, and religion.
  • D. justice, individualism, and truth.

7. Muir describes the overall approach to forest management by the U.S. Government at the time this passage was written as

  • A. hands-off.
  • B. legalistic.
  • C. progressive.
  • D. interventionist.

8. Which option gives the best evidence for the answer to the previous question?

  • A. Lines 1-3 ("The . . . planted")
  • B. Lines 40-42 ("After . . . ruins")
  • C. Lines 56-59 ("Surely . . . forests")
  • D. Lines 81-84 ("So far . . . spendthrift")

9. Muir suggests that the United States should emulate the philosophy of which country?

  • A. Palestine
  • B. Prussia
  • C. Spain
  • D. Georgia

10. As used in line 91, the word "ruin" most closely means

  • A. undoing.
  • B. hostility.
  • C. devastation.
  • D. ignorance.